Norton Security offers a range of tools well beyond security, and encompasses useful performance tools such as a startup manager, disk optimizer and file cleanup. Everything is presented in a main interface with four large icons representing the software’s main features: Security, Identity, Performance and More Norton, which allows you to install Norton on other devices (by emailing a download link) and shows their status.
More than five systems to protect should consider Norton Security Premium, which covers up to 10 devices for $90 and adds parental controls, backup software and 25GB of cloud storage. If you’ve got only one PC or Mac, check out the $60 Norton Security Standard, which is otherwise identical to the Deluxe edition.
Norton Security Deluxe’s malware protection for Windows includes the basic malware-signature matching, plus behavioral analysis of unknown code that Norton calls SONAR, for Symantec Online Network Response. (Symantec is Norton’s parent company.)
The company’s Community Watch program continually gathers threat data from systems running Norton or Symantec software and distributes daily, and often hourly, updates to subscribers. You can choose to participate in Community Watch upon installation.
Norton Security Deluxe enables advanced malware defenses that may not exist in older versions of Windows, such as Structural Exception Handler Overwrite Prevention (SEHOP) and address space layout randomization (ASLR), and also prevents the disabling of the Java Security Manager.
You can choose among Quick, Full and Custom scans, the latter of which examines a single suspect folder or file that you designate.
There’s also a Power Eraser for finding deeply hidden malware; a scanner for your Facebook Wall; Norton Insight, which looks at a file’s reputation; and Diagnostic Report, which surveys a system for vulnerabilities.
You can schedule a scan for anytime, day or night, but the setup screens are buried in the Custom Scan section. Travelers can opt to have scans run only when a notebook is plugged in.
Norton Security flags suspicious email attachments, phishing attempts and malicious websites. It also has browser toolbar’s that help protect Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox, and can stop the transfer of a key number or character sequence based on a registered fragment. However, Norton lacks Bit defender’s ability to proactively protect key folders from an attack by encrypting ransom ware, or Trend Micro’s ability to back up files threatened by ransom ware.
Norton Security Deluxe’s firewall automatically adjusts its settings, but can also be manually controlled. Most of the package’s other defenses can’t be. For instance, neither Auto-Protect (a real-time monitor), nor Intrusion Prevention (for network protection) are adjustable.
Norton’s password manager is called Identity Safe, which is a free download from Symantec’s site but is also fully integrated into all editions of Norton Security except the Mac versions. You’ll need to create a “master” password, and there’s a built-in password generator, but if the master password is lost or forgotten, Norton can’t recover it. (That’s not a drawback, as it also means hackers can’t steal the master password.) Identity Safe stores an unlimited number of encrypted passwords in what Norton calls its Vault. The Premium subscription let you store up to 25GB of additional files in the Vault.
However, Norton Security Deluxe lacks many features that its competitors offer. We’ve already noted that there are no parental controls, a striking omission as every other mid-priced antivirus package has them. But there’s also nothing unique akin to Kaspersky Internet Security’s Webcam protection, or Bitdefender Internet Security’s ability to pre-emptively immunize files against encrypting ransomware.
None of the Norton Security packages include a hardened browser for online banking and shopping, or an on-screen virtual keyboard to thwart keylogging software — two features that some competing brands include in low-priced packages. Norton reserves its file shredder for the separate $50 Norton Utilities package.
Norton Security Deluxe does have a performance section with several utilities, such as a disk defragmenter, a feature to clean up Windows Temp files and a Startup Manager that suggests “delaying” certain programs to boot the system more quickly. There’s a nice Graphs section, but it only shows processor statistics, not disk or network performance. It does show historical downloads, installations, optimizations and other key events.
If your system gets so burdened with malware and other unwanted programs that it grinds to a halt, Norton has two approaches, both of which are also available free online.The Power Eraser scan can ferret out deeply embedded exploits as well as adware, but because it needs to check for rootkit malware, you’ll need to restart the system. If Power Eraser doesn’t work, you can use the company’s downloadable Bootable Recovery Tool, akin to other companies’ Rescue Disks, to independently boot the computer to clean the Windows system.
Performance and System Impact
As with all the other recently evaluated antivirus products, we tested Norton Security Deluxe on an ASUS X555LA notebook running Windows 8.1 with an Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB of RAM and 36GB of files on the 500GB hard drive.
With Norton Security Deluxe installed, but no active scans running, our OpenOffice benchmark test matched 20,000 names and addresses on a spreadsheet in 6 minutes and 50 seconds. That’s just two seconds, or 0.4 percent, longer than the baseline without any antivirus software installed – a very light “passive” impact score, albeit one shared with ESET Smart Security, McAfee Internet Security and Trend Micro Internet Security.
Norton Security Deluxe took 39 minutes and 36 seconds to perform its first scan, during which it indexed our system. The full-scan time dropped to 16:29 by the third full scan, during which Norton went from scanning 371,306 files to looking at 281,363 items. That’s about three minutes shorter than the full scans of McAfee or Kaspersky Internet Security, but more than an hour less than Bitdefender Internet Security’s very slow (but light-impact) scanner.